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CDOT Maintenance Crews in the Denver Metro Area Prepare for the Winter

October 12, 2011 - Denver Metro Colorado/CDOT Region 6 - DENVER METRO— While Colorado’s winter season has begun in many parts of the state, the Denver metro area has only received a light dose of cold and snow, but that has not stopped maintenance crews from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) from preparing for winter weather.

In fact, today, CDOT announced its winter maintenance plans for the Denver metro area which includes 245 maintenance employees working 12-hour shifts during every snow event. Crews will utilize technology and a variety of equipment and snow removal products to combat the snow and ice.

“While the tools and equipment are essential for winter maintenance our highways would not be clear of snow and ice without our hard working employees,” said CDOT Executive Don Hunt. “Every year, our employees work around the clock during inclement weather to help keep our highways clear and safe. To ensure our plow drivers can do their job, we need the help of the traveling public to give our plows room and to drive appropriately for conditions.”

To battle winter weather this year, CDOT maintenance crews statewide have budgeted $64.3 million for winter maintenance activities and the Denver metro area’s budget is $7.8 million to maintain 3,850 lane miles of highway. Employees will work in shifts from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. until the highways are clear of snow and ice. In all, 121 pieces of equipment will be used including 100 snow plows that apply liquid and/or solid de-icers, three 6,000-gallon tankers that apply liquid de-icers and 18 broom trucks to sweep up or pick up material after a storm.

Similar to past years, CDOT will still continue to use both liquid de-icers, solid de-icers, and a sand/salt mixture. The main liquid de-icer that will be used throughout the winter is called APEX, which is a magnesium chloride-based product used above -4 degrees Fahrenheit.  Due to a lower freezing point, it can serve as regular and cold-temperature magnesium chloride and is extremely efficient for crews as they do not have to change products during a snow storm when the temperature drops.

The main solid de-icer that will be used throughout the winter is Ice Slicer, which at times may be mixed with sand to increase traction. Ice Slicer consists of a granular salt and magnesium chloride and is primarily used for temperatures 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Last year, CDOT used approximately 895,000 gallons of liquid de-icer and nearly 12,000 tons of solid de-icers in the Denver metro area while plowing, sanding and/or de-icing nearly 551,300 miles of road. CDOT spent approximately $5.6 million in the Denver area between July 2010 and June 2011, which was down 19% from July 2009 through June 2010 when CDOT spent $6.8 million.

To help maintenance crews disperse the solid and liquid de-icers more efficiently, 42 snow plows in the Denver metro area are now equipped with technology that will help drivers determine the appropriate treatments for a roadway.  The Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) allows crews to input real-time conditions, including road and ambient temperature, type of snow removal products being used and the application rate and the system will provide recommended treatments on a route-by-route basis.

“We have utilized MDSS in the metro area since 2006 with only 20 trucks utilizing the system,” said CDOT Maintenance Superintendent Saleem Khattak.  “By doubling the number of snow plows with MDSS this year, we can cover more highways and increase efficiencies in our snow removal process. The system not only helps crews be more effective with our de-icers, but can also help our crews identify problem areas and adjust to changing weather conditions.”

The system works by combines advanced weather prediction, advanced road condition prediction and rules of practice for anti-icing and de-icing to generate road treatment recommendations. After comparing the information to 15 weather reports, the system will then provide suggested treatments based on the information and models.  The system may tell the operator to re-treat the road at a later time, apply different products at different rates or even to continue current procedures.  The suggested treatment can then be followed or the operator can override the system.

Another tool utilized by maintenance crews, particularly on bridges and tunnels is automatic de-icing systems. CDOT has three systems in the Denver metro area:

  • Eastbound I-270 to Eastbound I-76
  • Southbound I-25 to Northbound I-225
  • Southbound I-225 to Southbound I-25

All of the systems are designed to automatically spray liquid de-icers when the on-site sensors detect a decrease in surface temperature among other conditions such tire grip, type of moisture and depth of moisture.

While CDOT is prepared for the winter ahead, it is also important for motorists to be prepared. CDOT strongly encourages motorists to plan ahead by visiting www.cotrip.org or by calling 511 anywhere in Colorado. Current road and weather conditions are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the Web and phone.

You can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts by visiting www.coloradodot.info and clicking on the cell phone icon in the upper right corner under the search function.  You can then subscribe to any of the lists free of charge (standard text message rates do apply).

Below are a few winter driving tips to help prepare for the winter ahead:

  • Be sure to carry plenty of windshield wiper fluid as liquid de-icers may stick to your windshield.
  • Let the snowplow drivers do their jobs by giving them extra room and don’t pass on the right.
  • Slow down! Even roads that have been treated with liquid de-icers may be slippery.
  • Be prepared. Have a scraper, snow brush, coat, hat, gloves, blanket, first aid kit, flashlight, tire chains, matches, water and nonperishable food in your car.

Make sure your tires have good tread.

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